Is Johann Hari a copy-pasting churnalist?

Orwell Prize winning hack Johann Hari has some explaining to do. After reading a recent blog post detailing how he seems to have plagiarised large parts of his interview with Antonio Negri I thought I’d have a closer look at his work.

As a test I picked a recent interview of Hari’s at random and went through his quotes, doing a basic check for plagiarism. The results are pretty damning.

I chose his interview with Gideon Levy, ‘Israel’s most hated man’, as it was presented as an intimate meeting of minds - so the quotes would all surely be unique. What follows are Hari’s quotes supposedly from the interview ‘in a hotel bar in Scotland’ followed by what appears to be the real source of the quotes.

[ Related:  Help crowd-check Johann Hari’s interviews ]

(I know many hacks lift quotes and thats not a crime but Hari appears to be passing off copy-pasted text from Levy’s writings in Haaretz and interviews with other hacks as an exclusive interview.)

Hari, Independent 24/09/10 writes;

After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice: “The facts are clear. Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent, and condescending Israel of today. This is the time to come up with a rehabilitation programme for Israel.”

These words are line for line the same as an article by Levy from 18/03/10
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/u-s-tough-love-is-the-kind-israel-needs-1.264946

The facts are clear: Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. Israel does not truly intend to pursue peace, because life  here seems to be good even without it. The continuation of the occupation doesn’t just endanger Israel’s future, it also poses the greatest risk to world peace, serving as a pretext for Israel’s most dangerous enemies.
No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent and condescending Israel of today. That’s why this difficult, thankless task has fallen on the shoulders of an ally, as only it has the power to get things started. No agreement will come out of another endless series of futile diplomatic trips or peace plans to which no one intends to adhere. We have tried this enough in the past, and all for naught. This is the time to come up with a rehabilitation program for Israel. The entire world, and ultimately Israel too, will applaud Barack Obama if he succeeds.

Some mistake surely? Perhaps Levy actually recalls his own writing
verbatim during interviews. Well, there’s more;

Hari, Independent 24/09/10;

With a shake of the head, he says: “We had now two wars, the flotilla – it doesn’t seem that Israel has learned any lesson, and it doesn’t seem that Israel is paying any price. The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative.”

These words first appeared in an article by Levy for Haaretz (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israelis-don-t-pay-price-for-injustice-of-occupation-1.280237) on 19/07/09 without the dramatic ‘shake of the head’;

The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before the Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative, and why should they?

It isn’t all lifted from Levy’s own writings though, some of it comes from other reporters’ interviews;

Hari, Independent 24/09/10;

“I would see settlers cutting down olive trees and soldiers mistreating Palestinian women at the checkpoints, and I would think, ‘These are exceptions, not part of government policy.’”

This quote seems to come from an interview Levy did in September 2009
with another reporter, Robert Hirschfield, available here - http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/4755/israels_gadfly/

The quote is sewn together with a string of other ideas Levy may or may not have shared with Hari but at no point does Hari indicate the quotes are taken from elsewhere.

While Hari has questions to answer over the quotes he claims were given directly to him he also seems to be freely creating mash-up quotes out of disparate statements levy has made over the years. Not the practice of an award winning hack.

Hari, Independent 24/09/10;

“I want to be proud of my country,” he says. “I am an Israeli patriot. I want us to do the right thing.” So this requires him to point out that Palestinian violence is – in truth – much more limited than Israeli violence, and usually a reaction to it. “The first twenty years of the occupation passed quietly, and we did not lift a finger to end it. Instead, under cover of the quiet, we built the enormous, criminal settlement enterprise,” where Palestinian land is seized by Jewish religious fundamentalists who claim it was given to them by God. Only then – after a long period of theft, and after their attempts at peaceful resistance were met with brutal violence – did the Palestinians become violent themselves.

“What would happen if the Palestinians had not fired Qassams [the rockets shot at Southern Israel, including civilian towns]? Would Israel have lifted the economic siege? Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda. Nobody would give any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they had not behaved violently.”

He unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians,
but adds: “The Qassams have a context. They are almost always fired after an IDF assassination operation, and there have been many of these.

Here we see a few quotes sewn together. Taken from a Haarett article
written in 2006 - http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/who-started-1.192565 and another written in 2007 - http://www.fromoccupiedpalestine.org/node/1739

[2006 article]

What would have happened if the Palestinians had not fired Qassams? Would Israel have lifted the economic siege that it imposed on Gaza? Would it open the border to Palestinian laborers? Free prisoners? Meet with the elected leadership and conduct negotiations? Encourage investment in Gaza? Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda - here and around the world. Israel would continue with the convergence, which is solely meant to serve its goals, ignoring their needs. Nobody would have given any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they did not behave violently.


 [2007 article]
Anyone who takes an honest look at the progression of events during
the past two months will discover that the Qassams have a context: They are almost always fired after an IDF assassination operation, and there have been many of these.

If the Indy really did send him to Scotland for these quotes I think Hari’s editor needs to sit him down for a chat.

More of the same all the way down;

Hari, Independent 24/09/10;

“Israel “frequently targeted medical crews, [and] shelled a UN-run
school that served as a shelter for residents, who bled to death over
days as the IDF prevented their evacuation by shooting and shelling…A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organisation.

Levy, 15/01/09 - http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21762.htm

…the shelling of a UN-run school that served as a shelter for
residents who bled to death over days as the IDF prevented their
evacuation by shooting and shelling

Hari, Independent 24/09/10;

“The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and
the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries
signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a
siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. It’s
a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts.
Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. So Israelis cannot
complain if this is used against them.”


Levy, Haaretz, 16/05/10 - http://www.wakeupfromyourslumber.com/blog/sullivan/boycotting-boycotters

The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and
the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries
signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a
siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. Nor
is it just a complete (and foolish ) boycott of Hamas, save for the
discussions over abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. It’s a series of
cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel
threatens nearly every diplomat who seeks to enter Gaza to see
firsthand the unbearable sights.

Its worth noting Hari has been accused of fabrication before, by Professor Noam Chomsky. Ideally with better time and resources I would have checked more of his work but I think the Negri piece and this interview clearly show he has tried to pass off quotes from elsewhere as his own work. I know times are tough for newspapers so if you’d like to help check some of this award winning hack’s other interviews use this simple search sting.

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UPDATE

Hari has issued a reply that fails to explain why quotes are passed off as having been said directly to him;

When interviewing a writer for a 6000-word profile, accurately quoting their writing is not “plagiarism” or “cut & paste journalism”

Perhaps he would do better to heed his own words from August 2010;

You don’t have a choice about being wrong sometimes: mistakes will be your life-long companion. But you do have a choice about whether to approach your error in terror so you suppress, ignore and repeat it – or to make it your honest, open ally in trying to get to the truth.

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